Leadership Series I Inability to Organize Details
In Napoleon Hill’s 10 Major Causes of Failure in Leadership, he opens with the Inability to Organize Details:
“Efficient leadership calls for the ability to organize and to master details. No genuine leader is ever ‘too busy’ to do anything which may be required as a leader. When a leader or follower is ‘too busy’ to change planes or give attention to an emergency, it is an indication of inefficiency. The successful leader must be the master of all details connected with the position. That means, of course, that the habit of delegating details to capable lieutenants must be acquired.”
Whoa, hold on here Napoleon! Are you really talking about leadership? Or is it management that you are on about? There is a strong delineation between leadership and management in contemporary views, and quite rightly.
Leadership vs Management
We like to think of organizational leaders as those who see the big picture and use higher-level thinking, vision and guidance. Managers are more about details of execution, efficiency, performance and hitting critical numbers. This dualistic view is illustrated in the table below:
I agree that leadership and management differences are real. However, I also believe we are wrong to build a rigid wall between these two sets of required attributes and skills. In effect, we are looking at a spectrum of skills; we each fall somewhere along this line and benefit from understanding and aptitude in both areas. It’s not ‘either-or’ but ‘both-and’. This is especially true in a small business, where the owner-operator must be both leader and manager for the business to thrive.
Given this understanding, it is critical that we:
· Understand our own strengths in each area
· Build on those strengths to maximize our contribution
· Delegate to those whose strengths are different and complementary to our own
Organize the Details
On the surface, Hill's brief opening paragraph speaks to having strong management skills and applying these effectively for maintaining the well-being of employees and securing desired outcomes. I don’t think many of us would object to this. We’ve all worked in poorly ‘organized’ environments, and have felt first-hand how this hurts productivity, affects customer experiences and damages staff morale. Chaos may lead to creativity and positive outcomes in the right context, but mostly it begets more chaos.
Our job as employers/business owners is to eliminate this chaos with organization. We must provide the resources, training and tools so our employees can execute their roles to the highest possible level. This sets our people up to succeed. Failing to do so has obvious negative implications, but most importantly, it removes our ability to measure performance and build a healthy culture of accountability. In its simplest form, setting employees up for success removes a potential excuse for below-standard performance. Overall, it is good for the customer, supportive for our people, helps secure desired outcomes and provides objectivity in measuring success.
Organize with Priority
Providing a high level of organization with keen attention to detail is vitally important and contributes to optimal results. This makes sense, but then Hill goes in a curious direction. He states that a key component of an effective leader is the ability to steer clear of the ‘busy-ness’ trap, avoid distractions from what is truly important and not to become paralyzed by the current reality. We require simplicity, focus and discipline when establishing critical priorities. Being stuck in the weeds, unable to see the bigger picture, spells leadership failure.
Hill believes leaders must possess high levels of recognition and awareness of constantly changing trends. We need to adapt and adjust quickly to shifting inputs. Strategy, plans and priority-setting are critical to achieving desired outcomes. The information age with its platform bombardment coupled with a global pandemic makes this leadership trait vital to thrive. So yes, effective planning is critical, but equally important is the leader’s ability to remain open, aware and awake and respond with measured intention.
Rigid adherence to ‘the plan’ with blinders can be as damaging to the business as having no plan at all. I favour revisiting planning every quarter so that you have formalized built-in nimbleness, with weekly opportunities identified, discussed and solved.
Organize using Delegation
Hill also identifies the critical leadership trait of delegation. I continually come across clients who struggle to seize this opportunity and its benefits to self, team and outcomes. If we want our businesses to move forward, we must let go of the impossible and ineffective drive to clutch onto the details.
The effective leader must master understanding all areas of the position from a higher level, but should not be tempted to follow the impulse to do everything. What follows if (when) you do? Failure, frustration and ineffectiveness throughout the organization. Our most talented people, those aligned with core values and objectives, those who achieve the results, will grow tired of being micro-managed and disempowered and will ultimately leave the company, or worse, stay and become toxic.
The onus is upon the effective leader to be ‘organized in the details’, but not to get stuck in the belief they are the only one to take action. A higher level of thinking, seeing and doing is required of leaders if they want to create an organization with the necessary structure to remain nimble.
Organize with Discipline
Effectiveness does not arise from the chaos of a poorly run business. It results from organizing with discipline:
· Be acutely aware of current realities
· Respond with intention when needed
· Empower talented people to take action on the details that they influence
Until next time.